Torres Strait Islanders win historic human rights legal fight against Australia #auspol #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #TellTheTruth listen to the scientists

A group of eight Torres Strait Islander people have made international legal history, after the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the Australian Government is violating its human rights obligations to them through climate change inaction.

The landmark decision delivered by the Committee today agreed with the complaint filed in 2019, obliging the Government to pay adequate compensation to the claimants and do whatever it takes to ensure the safe existence of the islands.

The complaint is the first legal action brought by climate-vulnerable inhabitants of low-lying islands against a nation state, and the decision has set several ground-breaking precedents for international human rights law.

Yessie Mosby, a Kulkalgal man and Traditional Owner on the island of Masig and a claimant in the case, said:

“This morning when I woke up on Masig, I saw that the sky was full of frigate birds. In my culture, we take this as a sign from my ancestors that we would be hearing good news very soon about this case.

“I know that our ancestors are rejoicing knowing that Torres Strait Islander voices are being heard throughout the world through this landmark case. Climate change affects our way of life everyday. This win gives us hope that we can protect our island homes, culture and traditions for our kids and future generations to come.

In its decision the Committee agreed with the complaint stating that: 

  • Climate change was indeed currently impacting the claimants’ daily lives; 
  • To the extent that their rights are being violated; and, 
  • That Australia’s poor climate record is a violation of their right to family life and right to culture under the global human rights treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • A minority also found that the Government had violated their right to life. 

The decision marks the first time an international tribunal has found a country has violated human rights law through inadequate climate policy; the first time a nation state has been found responsible for their greenhouse gas emissions under international human rights law; and, the first time that peoples’ right to culture has been found to be at risk from climate impacts.

Australian climate lawyer Sophie Marjanac, with environmental legal charity ClientEarth, acted for the claimants. Marjanac said: 

“This is an historic victory for climate justice. It is a victory for all peoples who are the most vulnerable to runaway climate change. This case opens the door for further legal actions and compensation claims by other climate affected people, and will give hope to those fighting for loss and damage at this year’s international climate talks in Egypt.

“The Australian Government must act on this decision and take decisive steps to protect the islands of the Torres Strait and their ‘Ailan Kastom’. Australia must seriously invest in adaptation and also drastically reduce its national emissions. Nations can no longer hide behind the myth that climate change is a collective problem and that they are free of legal obligation. They must act, now.”

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Acknowledging that the world as we know it is coming apart is an act of courage.
If I live to look back at this troubled time, I want to say that I did all that I could, that I was on the right side of history.
The question is, do you want to be part of the legacy that restores our faith in humanity?

When climate scientist Joëlle Gergis set to work on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, the research she encountered kept her up at night. Through countless hours spent with the world’s top scientists to piece together the latest global assessment of climate change, she realised that the impacts were occurring faster than anyone had predicted.

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The public campaign led by the Torres Strait Eight, Our Islands Our Home, has vowed to build on this win by calling on the new Government to take urgent action to address the findings of the OHCHR. A petition with more than 47,000 signatures will be presented by Torres Strait Eight members to the Australian Government at Parliament House later this year.

Yessie added: “This is not the end – we must hold the Australian government accountable and keep fossil fuels in the ground to protect our island homes.”

Another claimant, Kabay Tamu, a  Warraberalgal man from the Kulkalgal nation said:

“I’m lost for words. I feel like a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders. I’m so proud and appreciative of everyone involved from the very start to now. This has given us Torres Strait Islanders more solid ground to stand on now. At this very moment I can’t think of anything to say but thank you and we Zenadth Kes thanks everyone involved and who supported us in any way. Mina koeyma eso.”

Claimant Nazareth Fauid said: 

“This is a happy moment for me. I can feel the heartbeat of my people from the past, to the present and the future. Our stories are echoing across the world.

“This is about protecting our culture and identity. Our people living in the low-lying islands have been struggling and suffering because of climate change and the decisions of others.

“We are now celebrating history in the making. This is for future generations so that they won’t be disconnected from their island homes of the Torres Strait.”

The claim was supported by the Torres Strait’s leading land and sea council that represents the regions’ traditional owners, Gur A Baradharaw Kod (GBK). Lawyers with environmental law non-profit ClientEarth, represented the claimants, with support from barristers from 20 Essex Street Chambers in London and the Victorian Bar.

Press Link For More

United in Science provides an overview of the most recent science related to climate change, impacts and responses from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and partner organizations. At a time when urgent action to address climate change is needed, the report provides unified scientific information to inform decision-makers and highlights some of the physical and socioeconomic impacts of the current and projected climate.
Key messages:
Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and fossil fuel emissions are now above pre-pandemic levels after a temporary drop due to lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021
Recent years saw record high temperatures and ocean heat. Looking forward, there is a 48% chance that, during at least one year in the next five years, annual mean temperature will temporarily be 1.5 °C higher than in 1850-1900
Mitigation pledges are insufficient to achieve the Paris Agreement. Enhanced action is needed to prevent continued warming that is increasing the likelihood of irreversible changes in the climate system, known as tipping points
Billions of people around the world are exposed to climate change impacts. Cities – responsible for up to 70% of human-caused emissions – will face increasing socioeconomic impacts and the world’s most vulnerable populations will suffer most, as seen in recent extreme weather events
Adaptation is crucial to lower the risks to climate impacts. Early warning systems can save lives, reduce losses and damages, contribute to disaster risk reduction, and support climate change adaptation. United in Science
Nature is in crisis, placing human and planetary health at risk. This decade must be the turning point where we recognize the value of nature, place it on the path to recovery and transform our world to one where people, economies and nature thrive. Nature Positive
The heating planet is our commons. It holds us all. To address and reverse warming requires connection and reciprocity. It calls for moving out of our comfort zones to find a depth of courage we may have never known. It calls for action that is bold and fearless. Regeneration

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